Raptured: Part 2 – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him…. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God….And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 1-8, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul conducted his second missionary journey, traveling through Macedonia which is modern-day Greece. Due to some troubles caused by local Thessalonian citizens, Paul was forced to escape from the city of Thessalonica under the cover of night.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul moved on to Athens and then Corinth where he remained for about a year and a half. While at Corinth and possibly due to his abbreviated visit to Thessalonica, Paul wrote two letters to the church at Thessalonica. Included in these two letters were descriptions about the Second Coming of Christ and the fate of those who die before Christ’s return.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul explained that the dead in Christ (those who die before the Second Coming) are not forgotten by God when they die. Paul said that when Christ comes to gather his people, the dead in Christ AND those who are alive shall be caught away–or raptured–to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Apparently some had twisted Paul’s teaching about the Rapture to mean hat “the day of the Lord” had already come. Perhaps, because of their severe persecution and this false teaching the Thessalonians believed they had missed the Rapture and had entered into the time of God’s wrath and judgment, the time we now call the Tribulation or Great Tribulation (from Revelation 7:14 and spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:21, 29).

In 1 Thessalonians Paul was certain that the day and time of the coming apocalypse was inconsequential for the Thessalonians to know (vs. 5:1-2). But, because of the false teaching it was incumbent upon Paul to provide some clarity about “the day of the Lord.”

In these verses Paul assured the Thessalonians that none of this apocalyptic palaver about missing the Rapture was so because certain events on Earth must precede the Second Coming of Christ–specifically, a great falling away or rebellion against God and the revealing of the man of lawlessness, whom we now call the Antichrist. Furthermore, these events could only happen once what was restraining this uprising of inimitable evil on Earth was taken out of the way (vs. 7).

When Paul’s eschatological descriptions from 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians are considered together, it’s clear that the main event is the Rapture. He adds that the restraining work of God through the “Church” by the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling among God’s people will cease at some point, which will allow the Antichrist to rise to power and mount world domination for a period of time. Ultimately, Jesus returns in great power and glory to overthrow this great evil and set up His earthly kingdom.

Now, whether the Rapture is a separate event from the Second Coming and when the Rapture takes place–before the Tribulation, after the Tribulation or in the middle of the Tribulation–are matters open to modern theological debate. Nevertheless, at the end of time Christ will return to gather His people and this gathering will come unexpectedly and will be preceded or accompanied by a time of great tribulation in a final effort by God to redeem lost souls.

Regardless of how these end-time events unfold, the essential message of Paul’s eschatology is clear. Christians should endure the difficulties of this present world as though it will be a long time before Jesus returns but live with the hope and expectancy that He could return at any time.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NIV)

Raptured: Part 1 – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (Updated)

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, NIV).

Around 50 AD the Apostle Paul and Barnabas left Antioch and returned to the towns in Galatia and Pisidia they had visited on their previous journey (Paul’s second missionary journey is described in Acts 16-18). They had an argument about whether to take John Mark with them again and agreed to disagree and each went their separate way. Barnabas decided to re-visit the Jewish believers in Cyprus while Paul re-visited the Gentile believers in Galatia.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul and his missionary team of Silas and Timothy traveled through the Roman provinces of Galatia and Phrygia but the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in the Roman province of Asia. One night Paul dreamed a man from Macedonia (in modern-day Greece) was begging him to come and help the people of Macedonia.

Paul’s team sailed across the Aegean Sea and began their journey through Greece. When they reached the city of Thessalonica, Paul and Silas preached in the Jewish synagogue on three consecutive Sabbaths. But some of the Jews became jealous and incited some bad characters in the town to form a mob and cause a riot. Paul and Silas were forced to escape from Thessalonica under the cover of night.

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Living Up – Philippians 3:12-21

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Philippians 3:16-17, NIV).

In the 3rd chapter of his letter to the Philippians the Apostle Paul delineates two conflicting lifestyles. One lifestyle is characterized by having confidence in oneself and the material things of this world. Let’s call this living down.

The other lifestyle is characterized by faith in Christ and believing in His resurrection power. This lifestyle is characterized by living one’s life on this earth in preparation for the world to come. Let’s call this living up.

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Jesus Prayed for You – John 17:20-26

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21, NIV).

Did you know that when Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago that He prayed for you?

Yes, Jesus actually prayed for you….

At the end of a lengthy “Last Supper” after-dinner discussion in John 13-17, Jesus prayed for His disciples and then He prayed for those in the future who will believe the message of His disciples.

His prayer was for every Christian that has ever lived or ever will live.

So, that’s you and me….

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Shameless Audacity – Luke 11:1-13

“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need” (Luke 11:8, NIV).

In Luke 11:1-13 Jesus taught His disciples a lesson on how to pray. Verses 2-4 are the Luke version of The Lord’s Prayer.

The lesson begins when Jesus returned from praying and one of His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Jesus responded to the disciple’s request not with a set of instructions on how to pray or guidelines for showing proper devotion or gratitude to God.

Instead, Jesus replied with a curious story about approaching a neighbor in the middle of the night to ask for some food to feed an unexpected house guest.

Jesus certainly didn’t ignore devotion and gratitude as a function of prayer. In fact, He said you start prayer by acknowledging God the Father is the Provider of all that we ask and recognizing He is the Forgiver of all our sins (vs. 2-4).

But, the key ingredient of prayer in Jesus’ story is found in the the enigmatic behavior of the person making the plea for food to serve to the visitor.

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Leftovers – Matthew 16:1-12

“Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?'” (Matthew 16:9-11, NIV).

When I was a kid my dad was a school teacher and since school teachers didn’t make very much money, my mom also worked to supplement our family income.

In the summer when school wasn’t in session my dad was a stay-at-home parent and it fell to him to fix lunch each day. He would always gather the leftovers from various, unrelated meals and warm them up for our lunch. Oh, how I loathed leftovers!

Perhaps the disciples felt the same way about leftovers in this story from Matthew 16 when they forgot to take food with them on their boat trip across the Sea of Galilee.

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What’s Really Important – Matthew 6:19-21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).

In this one concise statement Jesus reveals a fundamental attribute of human behavior: People do what’s important to them!

In other words, your priorities dictate your behavior.

Your life in this world is not so much a matter of what you get out of it as what you put into it.

All of us have plans for the future and goals we want to achieve in life. These could be plans for success in your career, a six or seven figure salary, a new home or maybe an exotic vacation.

Whatever the plans or goals are, we strive for those things that are important to us. And, Jesus makes it clear in this pronouncement that the things that we personally value are the things that control our lives.

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Faith And …. Philippians 3

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. Watch out for ‘dogs,’ watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:1-3, HCSB).

Most Christians today are probably more concerned about learning correct doctrine than they are about avoiding incorrect doctrine. And, as a result incorrect doctrine can sometimes weave its way into our theological understanding if we don’t beware of incorrect teaching about our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Avoiding false doctrine and its dubious teachers was a big deal to the Apostle Paul. So much so that he used some pretty strong language to call out these teachers of false doctrine.

Specifically, the teaching Paul was castigating in these verses was legalism–salvation that is rules-based and works-oriented. These deceitful teachers told the Philippians that as Gentiles they not only needed to accept Christ as Savior but they also needed to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved.

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Hard Work – Colossians 3:18-25

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:24-25, NIV).

In these verses from Colossians the Apostle Paul counsels people who are slaves and Christians.

Slavery in the ancient Roman Empire was a common practice and there was a vast population of Roman slaves. Slaves were most often prisoners of war but could also be the families of desperate Roman citizens facing hard times. Slaves were so commonplace in Roman society that in addition to being household servants and laborers, they could hold professional positions such as teachers or public servants.

Because of the preponderance of slavery in ancient Roman society, it’s only reasonable that when Paul addresses the subject of relationships in Christian families that he would also include the relationship between slaves and their masters.

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Inexorable Goodness

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:16, NIV).

GOD IS GOOD!

It’s a mantra that Christians often proclaim.

But, what do we mean when we say God is good? By good do we mean kind? Like God is a nice guy? Or by good do we mean virtuous? That God has no character flaws? Or maybe by good we mean mighty like God is the most powerful?

The first place the goodness of God is mentioned in the Bible is, consequently, at the first of the Bible. The goodness of God is first declared in the creation story, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV).

God’s creation was not just good, it was very good! So, it only stands to reason that if God’s creation was good–very good–then God must be good because only good can create good.

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